3 Reasons You Feel Awkward When Someone Compliments You
And why it's so important to learn to accept and appreciate praise.
At the Producers Guild Awards last month, Shonda Rhimes began her acceptance speech for the Norman Lear Award for Achievement in Television by deadpanning, "Iâ€™m going to be totally honest with you, I completely deserve this.â€
She was kidding, and she wasnâ€™t. That night the mega-talent behind some of prime-timeâ€™s buzziest shows went on to deliver a powerful message about diversity on TV. (â€œItâ€™s not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is," she told the room full of industry influencers.) ButÂ she managed to do it while simultaneously owning her success in a way that we rarely get to see.
From her memoir,Â Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own PersonÂ ($25;Â amazon.com), we know that Rhimes wasnâ€™t born with such â€œbadassery,â€ as she would call it. She has worked hard to learn to appreciate praise without negating it, or laughing it off, as if it were a big, fat joke.Â That struggle, Rhimes points out, is oneÂ that a lot ofÂ women share. When faced with a compliment, many of us duck our heads, embarrassed, when all thatâ€™s really necessary is a â€œthank youâ€ and a smile.
Here, Healthâ€™s contributing psychology editor, Gail Saltz, MD, explains some of the possible reasons for this ingrained habitâ€”and why itâ€™s so important to startÂ acceptingÂ praise with grace.
Youâre highly attuned to others
Women are the more empathetic sex, says Dr. Saltz. We are more likely to put ourselves in another personâ€™s shoes (be it a sister, friend, classmate or coworker) to imagine that personâ€™s internal reaction to our own successâ€”and whatever insecurity or jealousy or frustration it may bring up for them. It might be hard for you to bask in our own glory because youâ€™re afraid of throwing others into your shadow, explains Dr. Saltz. But the bottom line? Itâ€™s never a good idea to make yourself smaller to make somebody else feel better.
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You donât want to come off as conceited
So you downplay your achievements,Â andÂ wave off the praise. You donâ€™t want others to think that you think that youâ€™re better than them. As a result, you're quick to second guess your confidence, says Dr. Saltz. You wonder, Am I acting confident or am I acting arrogant? But â€œknowing the difference for yourself, as a woman, is really important,â€ she says. Because there is a big difference between the healthy recognition, I accomplished this fantastic thing; and the egotistical fantasy, Everything I do is amazing because Iâ€™m me.
Youâre afraidÂ you don't deserve it
You might be suffering from the â€œextremely commonâ€ fear of being a fraud, says Dr. Saltz, which means that â€œevery time you achieve [something], you are overcome by this feeling of, â€˜That was a fluke.â€™â€ The underlying anxiety is that you donâ€™t belong where you are, among your peers; and when you fall into that kind of negative thought trap, you brush off every victory as a lucky breakÂ before you allow yourself a moment enjoy it.
â€œAccomplishments feed self-esteem,â€ says Dr. Saltz. Thatâ€™s why acknowledging your achievementsâ€”and accepting the praise that comes your wayâ€”can be so powerful. â€œWhatâ€™s important is not necessarily what [others think of you], but what you know yourself,â€ she explains. So the next time someone tries to compliment you, go on and let them. Take the praise, and appreciate it for what it is: a reminder of that great thing you did that you really deserve to celebrate.